It has been a rough time for education in America, I am sure you are aware. From my side of the desk around Northern Virginia, students are stressed out from the demands of academics, family, sports, work, and college. Teachers are equally frustrated with the demand for innovation, helping students achieve more, and staying on top of their career. Today, the criticisms of students and teachers collectively voicing their opinions not to mention dealing with stress and pressure don't always fall on sympathetic ears.
It seems as though that pressure has fallen upon many educational partners that teachers sometimes love, sometimes hate. From threats to reduce the funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to criticism of College Board's relevance in the educational landscape, people have opinions.
I want to reflect on College Board. There have been historical grumblings, like that time that Oklahoma wanted to scrap AP US History because it did not focus on the exceptionalism of the US OR the recent backlash in the AP World History community over their fourth redesign in five years due to pressure from universities not accepting credit for AP World... in part because it is one course that covers six credits in college. And don't even get me started on Dual Enrollment.
So why does this matter? How does this relate to civics education? I think that this is a pretty serious topic in both regards, and I want to talk to you from the position of friends over a cup of coffee, just talking about education. Look, this is my opinion. It's based on my observation of students as a teacher. It's based on my view on history and civics... and it's just my opinion.
So here's the scoop: I think College Board is pretty great, and here is why.
College Board is great for students!
Without getting into too much quantified data, I find that the perspective of Sidwell Friends and their compatriots pretty unimportant. As stated by Chester E. Finn, what do the actions of these eight elite private high schools mean to me at an area public school? My county is spending around $12K per student, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the $40K at Sidwell Friends. A tuition like that attracts elite families who want their students to go to elite colleges, and I would imagine that these schools are also able to pay for elite teachers to come up with elite lesson plans. These students, families, and schools are in no way typical. To be frank, I don't care what they do.
I care about the students in my classroom who have families who are struggling to live in my community, or maybe they are comfortable. I have both kinds of students. When you consider that average student loans hit $30K and so many of my students go on for advanced degrees, the importance of a cost effective approach to college is paramount. Taking an AP class gives these students leverage... maybe they pay around $100 (or less if you are free or reduced lunch) to take the test, and now they have options. Students can expedite their college career or they can repeat courses that they think are easy A's to boost their GPA. What is particularly staggering is that these options are something that three million students this year will be able to consider.
I also think that in a world where the Department of Education is in trouble for its continued functionality due to backlash against nationalist educational policies, it stands to reason that we have a problem in education with finding a way to standardize our product. I know that kids who move to my district often struggle to catch up to the rigor offered in my county's classrooms. Why? Because some states are better at educating their students than others for various political reasons. The only federal agency that tried (but failed) to standardize education through the controversial standardized test craze of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top as well as Common Core is backpedaling from all of these initiatives. So how does a student from a low performing school district compete with students from around the country? The answer is, these students don't compete. But a standardized course with standardized tests and data gives students the ability to transcend these political landmines.
Think the answer is Dual Enrollment (DE)? Think again. There is no reputable organization comparing these community colleges. Knowing what I know about education, it stands to reason that community colleges have the same problems that public schools have. Some are better at teaching kids than others. (And hold that thought with community colleges, I am not done with them yet).
In summary, if the federal government is shrinking away from initiatives meant to standardize education at the federal level, I have no faith that the states will be able to do so on their own accord independently. Movements to localize education make it difficult to ensure that students are given adequate instruction and tutelage, This problem is compounded as our population becomes more transient. This is a problem that College Board helps to fix through a single, standardized assessment that examines how well students can employ critical thinking skills and content on multiple choice tests and written assessments. College Board is offering the same product across the nation to all students who desire to be assessed. This is kind of like the SAT, isn't it? Having a benchmark, a standard, enables the college and the student to make decisions that impact that student's future.
College Board is great for teachers!
Teachers are assigned their preps (courses) often with limited influence by that teacher. This is daunting for veteran teachers let alone new teachers. It's those new teachers I really want to focus on though. New teachers coming out of college are saddled with the fore mentioned debt; many of them need additional jobs to be able to make ends meet. This is not new news. The stress that goes into creating high quality, high caliber lessons on a daily basis is daunting, but good news is there are so many resources out there for high school teachers to improve their craft that are either provided by College Board or framed after College Board's course design. This enables newbie and veteran alike to be able to create an environment in which student mastery is possible.
From a different perspective, I really dislike the idea of moving towards DE or other similar products. I can only speak to what DE looks like in my community to illustrate my point. DE can only be taught by someone who has a masters in that content area, and the course is offered at a high school. Even in my relatively upper middle class community, I don't run into many teachers who have a masters in a content area. If teachers have masters, they are often in education, pedagogy, instructional practices, administration, tech, reading literacy, etc. Therefore, there is a really limited number of people who are capable of doing DE. The difference between the instruction of an AP teacher and that DE teacher is around $24K. I am currently getting my masters in political science, that is the sticker price. How many teachers have access to $24K? Especially in high poverty communities? These teachers are a rarity. Rural and urban school districts will probably have a hard time finding these teachers, and if DE begins to cut into AP courses, we will have whole segments of the population without access to college prep courses. That is unless state legislatures loosen up some of the requirements... which means we are back to teachers doing the instruction without any universal standard. Why not just have the high school teachers teach at the community college? You still need a masters in your content area in my community.
We are stripping teachers who are fully capable of teaching college level courses in America's diverse communities and making these courses far less accessible to sensitive populations in urban and rural areas. We still have not solved the problem of determining whether or not these individuals are truly college ready coming out of America's community colleges, as there is no objective measure other than the SAT of college readiness.
This does matter. In my content in particular, America has a real deficit in civics knowledge. There is no real focus on civics education that correlates to STEM education, other than C3 from Common Core and the pantheon of non-profit educational outlets that care about civics education like iCivics, Center for Civic Education, the National Constitution Center, the James Madison Fellowship Foundation, We the People, and OMG a million others. Thank you to all of these great outlets. The purpose of this blog is to advocate for civics education. It may seem like a homage to College Board is out of place, but I am so thankful for an organization that transcends the political push-pull over which level of government is the most appropriate level to determine educational policy. As a non-profit, College Board offers a system that is standardized, affordable, resourced, and accessible in all kinds of communities, not just elite communities. And these days, I am more concerned about the educational opportunities for the beautiful students of these sensitive communities than I ever will be for the students of Sidwell Friends.
I want to start by thanking Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald for their uncompromising dedication to giving the NSA violations air time and transparency. I wanted to share some of the most important things I have learned from this book bef...
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
by Bill Bishop
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
I lovgov. LOVE IT! I love teaching government, learning about it, debating, discussing, asking questions about government. And not the standard boiler plate questions, but the hard ones that are NOT in the books.